All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well, not anymore. Gamification is the hot new trend many organizations are using to increase the level of employee engagement in the workplace. For the uninitiated, gamification means introducing game-thinking in non-game environments. In the case of workplace gamification, common elements—like competition, rewards, and storytelling—are “borrowed” from traditional games and applied in areas from training and education, to sales and marketing, customer retention, and employee engagement.
According to the Sunrise Software Gamification Survey 2014, 13 percent of surveyed organizations already used gamification apps, while 71 percent had plans to introduce them in the future. Plus, 86 percent of respondents said gamification helped them increase productivity and improve customer service.
In one of my previous articles, I highlighted some excellent examples of gamification in the workplace that demonstrates how it yields high ROI when strategically used by companies. Here they are:
- SAP Streamwork gamified brainstorming groups and grew generated ideas by 58 percent.
- Spotify and Living Social replaced their annual reviews with a mobile, gamified solution and witnessed more than 90 percent of employees participating voluntarily.
- Deloitte designed its training programs using gamification, which resulted in 50 percent less completion time and improved long-term engagement.
- Ford Canada injected gamification in its learning portal for employees, increasing actions per user by 100 percent within five weeks.
Challenges in Gamifying the Workplace
There is a misconception that gamification will deliver the desired results just because it’s introduced into the workplace. “Widely publicized early successes have led some organizations to believe that gamification is a magic elixir for indoctrinating the masses and manipulating them to do the company’s bidding,” Gartner analyst, Brian Burke, who was also associated with Gartner’s 2012 findings, wrote in an eBook released in 2014 titled “How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things.”
Whether or not gamification works for a company depends largely on how it is applied in their workplace. To borrow a line from the movie Field of Dreams, this isn’t simply a matter of “build it and they will come.” In 2012, Gartner predicted 80 percent of gamified apps will actually fail to help organizations achieve their business objectives. The reason? Bad design and poor user experience.
“These organizations are mistaking people for puppets,” Burke says. “And their transparently cynical efforts are doomed to fail. As a growing number of poorly designed gamified solutions appear, players will begin to suffer “badge fatigue” and actively avoid poorly designed solutions.”
Burke isn’t alone in his views. A Financial Times article by Jessica Twentyman cited Kevin Werbach, professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School, the business school at the University of Pennsylvania, and co-author of the 2012 book, “For The Win: How Game Thinking can Revolutionize Your Business,” as voicing a similar opinion. “It’s [gamification] often overhyped as a ‘magic key’ to changing behaviour,” Twentyman says. “Poorly implemented, it can be a big turn-off for employees. And it isn’t the right approach for every situation.”
So, what can we glean from these observations? There are definitely some caveats when it comes to gamification. Sometimes the tech appeal just isn’t enough to overcome a bad user experience and design. It’s important for companies using these incentives to take the time to personalize them for their employees. Whether it means making the goal more time off, or gift cards for restaurants, or cold, hard cash. Find out what means the most to the individuals and tailor the rewards to fit.
Also, businesses will need to keep in mind that mandated gamifying isn’t really play. It needs to have voluntary participation or else it becomes like playing dodge ball in grammar school. We all have to go through it, but few really like it. The biggest pitfall is probably that the novelty of it all wears off, so the games need to evolve—be fun, challenging, and inventive constantly to truly work its magic.
Clearly, many companies are missing the boat when it comes to applying gamified solutions to their workplace environment. One of the biggest reasons is that not everyone has the in-house “game design talent” required to successfully implement these projects. Sure, there are gamification solutions and apps available, but this type of one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t cut it if you really want to make gamification work for your business. The strategies need to mesh with the smallest detail of your work process to meet the goals. That calls for tailored solutions, which is exactly where the need for managed gamification services stems from.
As with every technology we’ve seen in recent times—be it the cloud, mobile, or video—users demand simplicity and ease-of-use that borders on plug and play. Managed service providers (MSPs) can offer their clients gamification solutions where they can sell everything from design, installation, management, and troubleshooting facilities in the form of a neatly packaged deal. This will allow businesses to harness the full benefits of gamification without having to worry about the nitty-gritty.
By offering gamification as a flexible, on-demand service, MSPs can gain as well. As more companies look to take the lead and leverage the opportunities that gamifying business activities can bring, it will open doors for MSPs to explore new revenue routes through gamification-as-a-service—a win-win for both MSPs and their enterprise clients.
This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s PivotPoint. Dedicated to providing valuable insight from industry thought leaders, PivotPoint offers expertise to help you develop, differentiate and scale your business.
Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.